Buckle up. I’m about to turn your concept of cruising upside-down. Spin the globe (or Google Earth) and tilt it upward. If you’ve done it properly, you’re looking at a white mass of continent known as Antarctica. It is, as some scientists have put it, the “least understood place on Earth.” Think penguins, not polar bears. Yes, you’ll need a parka, which most cruise companies provide, as well as boots, gloves and snow pants. It’s cold, but the White Continent is worth a shiver or two. Antarctica, as one expedition leader characterized it, is “as close to another planet as most people will ever get.”
Even as someone who has spent nearly three decades cruising, it still amazes me that we can visit such a remote place as Antarctica, and yet return to a floating boutique hotel with plush accommodations, multiple dining venues, expansive spas and fitness areas, shops, bars and staff whom you’ll never forget.
Antarctica, though, is the star of this show. Down here, there are moments, many of them, that cause you to gasp in awe. Even experienced expedition leaders who have visited the polar regions many times during their long careers, become like children seeing snow spiraling down from the sky for the first time.
Antarctica piques the emotions in ways that are difficult to convey with words and pictures. Difficult, because these particular feelings are not always accessible in our busy lives back home. They are emotions inspired by the natural beauty of our world in its purest form. You may have seen photos of penguins nesting on their eggs against dramatic, snowy backdrops and ice-choked seas, but when a Zodiac brings you ashore to a place uninhabited by humans, it is quite a different sensation than you get when looking at a photo. You find yourself suddenly struck with emotions that have brought many to tears. Having been to Antarctica on three voyages now, I have felt it myself and have seen it in others.
With your boots planted firmly in the snow, you begin to trudge forward, white powder beneath your soles undisturbed by humans. You move forward across a breathtaking landscape as penguins comically go about their chores, waddling in front of you Charlie Chaplin-style.
With your eyes focused on the scene in front of you, you breathe in the purest air that has ever passed through your nostrils, and it feels as though the air is cleansing your body of any impurities ingested in the world beyond this snowy place. With no effort, no need for meditation or yoga or deliberate concentration, you are living mindfully and in the moment. There is, quite frankly, no other place that you’d rather be. How could there be?